Queens lawmakers secure bill to upgrade environmental infrastructure in the borough

Queens Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng (Photo courtesy of congresswomen’s offices)

Congresswomen Grace Meng and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with Senator Chuck Schumer, on June 15 announced the House passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, which includes a key measure to help make Queens more resilient in the face of climate change.

The bill includes Meng’s provision to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to spend up to nearly $120 million to work with the city in upgrading environmental infrastructure in Queens.

Projects that directly address water and wastewater infrastructure and improve stormwater management, including combined sewer overflows, are among those that could be considered.

Meng thanked Schumer, Ocasio-Cortez, Mayor Eric Adams and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards for working with her to secure the policy provision.

Queens was one of the hardest hit areas when Hurricane Ida struck last year; on top of billions in economic damage, people lost their lives because our infrastructure failed to withstand the onslaught of rain and flooding,” Meng said. “We know the devastating effects that future surges of rainfall can pose if left unaddressed. The provision that we secured will help ensure that our communities are better prepared to handle many problems that we have faced in the past.”

The Water Resources Development Act of 2022 provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out water resources development projects and studies, provide improvements to rivers and harbors throughout the United States, and provide conservation development of water-related resources. Additionally, the measure also authorizes funding, yet to be allocated, for other projects in New York.  

Allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to spend the money is the first step in the process. If enacted into law, Congress would still need to provide funding for the corps to carry out the environmental infrastructure projects in Queens. 

After the flooding from Hurricane Ida devastated so many families in Woodside, Ocasio-Cortez said they worked with Meng and Schumer to authorize $120 million in the Water Resources Development Act for water and wastewater infrastructure in Queens. 

“Now that this measure has passed the House, we urge the Senate to do the same, so that we can appropriate this funding for climate resiliency projects and mitigate costly, fatal disasters like Ida in the future,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

Schumer said he is pushing to provide as much support as possible for Queens communities through the provision, calling it “an important step towards addressing our city’s water and wastewater infrastructure needs.”  

“Hurricane Ida devastated communities across New York, and Queens in particular suffered immense damage to its roads, businesses and homes, and lives were tragically lost,” Schumer said. “As these extreme weather events become more frequent, it’s critical that we upgrade our environmental infrastructure so communities are more resilient when confronted with future storms.” 

Adams said he is grateful to the congressional delegation for securing the authorization needed to make Queens communities safer and more resilient for generations to come.  

“As extreme flooding and rainfall events become more frequent, investments in upgraded sewers and stormwater management only become more critical to keeping our roads clear and New Yorkers’ homes dry,” Adams said. 

The massive federal investment in Queens’ infrastructure would not only dramatically reduce flooding from future storms, it would also protect property and save lives, according to Richards. 

“From Superstorm Sandy to Hurricane Ida and beyond, Queens knows all too well the destructive and deadly impacts extreme weather can have on our borough, especially in historically overlooked neighborhoods with antiquated and ineffective sewer and stormwater drainage systems,” Richards said. “I am deeply grateful for the leadership of Representative Grace Meng, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to ensure the Water Resources Development Act authorizes $120 million in critically important infrastructure improvements for Queens. I look forward to the Senate’s passage of this monumental bill, President Biden’s signature and shovels ultimately hitting the dirt.” 

The bill now heads for a vote in the Senate. 

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